Community Hospital Rebuilds Better with Wind Energy

August 08, 2012

Audio with Mary Sweet, Kiowa County Memorial Hospital administrator (MP3 2.4 MB) Download Windows Media Player. Time: 00:02:34.

In 2007, a tornado destroyed the small community of Greensburg, Kansas and its hospital. Kiowa County Memorial Hospital administrator Mary Sweet says the tornado also caused a major shift in how the community makes decisions.

As plans to rebuild began, Sweet says the hospital administrators met and discussed what they wanted from the new building. She says they learned not to look just at the initial cost but at the environmental impact, long-term savings, and sustainable and renewable resources. One goal was to reach the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification.

"As we started moving forward, we set our goal high. We set it for LEED Platinum, knowing that no other critical access hospitals in the United States had ever achieved that. So we set that as our goal, knowing that we might not achieve that, but in the end we did. So for us, it was because it was a community movement to build green, but it also just became a personal goal of ours to match the other buildings in the community."

Sweet says every dollar makes a difference in the hospital. Located in one of the prime wind areas in the U.S., she says administrators decided to use the resource available as a benefit by installing a wind turbine.

"We looked at the return for the investment. The original investment's fairly high, but the turnaround, we're looking at eight to 12 years payback with a life of the utility at 25 years. So for us, it took a very progressive board to look at that and say, you know, we have the funding, we want to work with that. We put the first wind generator up. We were so happy with the output, we actually put a second wind generator in when some funds became available."

According to energy analysis modeling results from 2010, Sweet says the hospital is 32 percent more energy efficient than a typical hospital built to the ASHRAE standard.

"When they look at what the bill should have been for this size of a facility, we're saving about 32 percent of the typical building. I think a lot of times we want to do what's environmentally right; we want to set a good example. But, I have to be honest. The bottom dollar is money. If I can save money and do it in a clean, efficient manner, I'm going to do that. So that is why the wind turbines and some of our other energy efficiency features were put in place."

Sweet says the hospital administrators were fortunate that experts from every field came to help them build a new, green building. With the help of these experts and the wind turbines, the hospital's total annual energy costs are a little more than $186,000.

For more information on wind energy www.windpoweringamerica.gov.